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Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, April 12, 2024
The Echo
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Spiegel employment terminated

Tenured professor fired from university

The following article is an updated version of the original online article, first published on Sept. 4 — Editor

 Tenured professor Jim Spiegel was terminated from his position at Taylor University on Aug. 24. 

Spiegel served the university for 27 years as a professor of religion and philosophy. 

The Taylor administration has yet to release a campus-wide statement on the matter. However, on Sept. 1, Taylor administration issued an email release to current faculty members, detailing the situation. 

“Just as we as individuals are all called to seek restoration of damaged relationships, the biblical principles embodied in Taylor’s Life Together Covenant compel us to do the same corporately within the University,” wrote the Taylor administration. “That process was followed, engaging faculty leadership, the academic department, and the administration seeking to restore what was damaged. In this case restoration was not possible.”

The letter was signed by Interim President Paige Cunningham, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Goeglein, Provost Michael Hammond and Tom Jones, dean of arts and humanities. 

Cunningham, Goeglein, Hammond and Jones declined to comment on the matter. 

Spiegel said the reason for his termination was connected to the song “Little Hitler,” a song written by Spiegel, and performed by the professor on more than one occasion on the campus of Taylor University. On Aug. 17, Spiegel uploaded a link to the song on his personal Facebook page. 

On Aug. 19, morning, Spiegel received an email from Provost Hammond, who ordered that Spiegel take down the video.

On Aug. 20, morning, Spiegel met with Hammond and Jones to discuss the issue further. Later that evening, Spiegel informed Hammond and Jones that the video would not be taken down. 

On Aug. 24, morning, Spiegel’s employment was terminated. 

Between Aug. 20 and Aug. 24, there was no additional communication between Spiegel and Taylor administration. 

“Yes, their decision was based on my refusal to remove a video of my song “Little Hitler” from my personal YouTube channel after the University received a harassment complaint about it,” Spiegel wrote. “As for the termination meeting, the Provost read me the termination letter, ordered me to turn in my keys and computer, and notified me that I no longer had health insurance coverage and that my pay would end with that pay period.”

The controversial lyrics of the song describe how a “little Hitler” exists inside of everyone. 

“You may be smiling on the outside, but inside, you’d love to see me dead,” read the lyrics. “You’d like to take a two-by-four, and knock me to the floor, then take a 12-gauge shotgun to my head.”

The blunt lyrics emphasize that hatred grows inside humans naturally, and that everyone has a “brutal killer” inside of them, wrote Spiegel. 

Spiegel said “restoration” sought after by the TU administration would have required him to remove the video. But he refused to comply with the request. 

Some believe that “times have changed,” Spiegel continued, and that recent civil unrest gives  the song a more somber tone and context. 

According to the university faculty handbook, there are three reasons for termination of a faculty member’s employment:

  1. “Notification of refusal of tenure to a non-tenured faculty member by August 15 of the academic year following application.”

  2. “Failure to meet professional, moral, philosophical and/or spiritual standards for faculty.”

  3. “Unusual economic or enrollment conditions which force curtailment of programs.” 

As a tenured professor, article one would not be applicable to Spiegel’s termination. 

Taylor administration has released no information regarding curtailment of the philosophy or religion programs, nor has administrative action been taken to curtail said programs. 

That would leave article two, “failure to meet professional, moral, philosophical and/or spiritual standards for faculty,” but the TU administration has not publicly identified a reason for termination. 

Spiegel specified his history of performing the song, and how this was not the first time the tune had been heard by the Taylor community. 

“No, I have performed it numerous times in various places, including in a Taylor chapel in October 2010 and at a Taylor Colleagues College faculty retreat to about 120 faculty,” Spiegel wrote. “There were no complaints in either case.”

Spiegel has also been in the limelight for recent controversial actions, such as the authorship of the “Excalibur” newsletter in early 2018, and for authorship of the petition in spring of 2019 against an on-campus Starbucks which never materialized on campus. 

When asked if these controversies added to the decision for his termination, Spiegel wrote that “many people believe that is the case.”

Spiegel also added that no other contentious issues were “currently under discussion between the admins and myself,” prior to the YouTube video discussion. 

In the faculty release, administration added that no political agenda was pursued in Spiegel’s termination. 

“Some may see this through a political or ideological “left-right/liberal-conservative” lens,” wrote the Taylor administration. “In the world today that is an ever more common way to view a decision-making process. Taylor is not a political enterprise, nor was this an effort to silence disagreements with the University and/or its leadership.” 

Despite being fired from his role, Spiegel said he is appreciative of the support he and his family have received in recent days. 

“My family and I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of faculty, staff, students, and alumni,” Spiegel wrote. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the support they have given us in this situation and over the course of my entire career at Taylor.  While we are sad to leave, we hold no ill-will towards anyone and wish only the best for the Taylor community.”